TVR's Final Ride?

TVR, the British maker of macho, Dodge Viper-style sports cars, is shuttering its factory in Blackpool, England, this fall, and the company appears to be in its death throes. Sales have slowed to a trickle, and the manufacturer's model range does not comply with new European emissions regulations. TVR denies that this is the end. "The company remains financially stable and is highly optimistic about its future," Ian Law, marketing director, said in a statement announcing the factory closure. The developments have left TVR owners, dealers, and fans mystified. They had already seen the company transformed since it was acquired in mid-2004 by Nikolai Smolenski, the twenty-something son of a megawealthy Russian oligarch. Smolenski is said to have bought TVR from longtime owner Peter Wheeler for the equivalent of about $25 million. Smolenski seldom appears at the company and avoids media contact. TVR sales are almost entirely within the United Kingdom and have plunged to an estimated two to six per week, a substantial drop from the twelve-cars-a-week average of only a few years ago. Amidst all the rubble, TVR talks grandiosely of following the example set by Aston Martin. The company claims it will establish a greenfield assembly facility and use subassemblies sourced from low-cost countries. But a well-informed TVR source adds a note of skepticism: "There are always lots of plans with Nikolai. What's lacking is execution."

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